What You Should Know About Applying For Retirement

October 31, 2019 • By

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Last Updated: October 31, 2019

" "Approaching and preparing for retirement can be a daunting task, but we are here to make it as easy as possible. Social Security has eliminated the forms, signatures, wait time, and appointments. We made it easy, convenient and secure. You can complete our online retirement application in as little as 15 minutes from your preferred location, at a time most convenient for you.

Before you apply, you should think about things like how you’ll receive benefits, your health, and whether anyone else in your family can get benefits on your record. Let’s go over the basics together, just to make sure you’re on the right track for retirement, when the time comes.

The age you choose to retire affects the amount of benefits you receive and when you can start receiving them. If you start them any time before your full retirement age, we’ll reduce your monthly benefit. Depending on your year of birth, your full retirement age is likely between age 66 and 67. You may start receiving benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70.

If you elect to receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, and continue to work, it can affect your benefits. Social Security has an awesome tool called the Retirement Estimator that calculates a personal estimate of how much your benefit will be at different ages and “stop work” dates. You can use it to find the best combination for your situation.

You can read about other things to consider before you make your decision about when to begin your benefits. If you’re ready to apply, you can do it online. It’s easy, convenient, and secure!

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About the Author

Mike Korbey, Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Mike Korbey, Deputy Commissioner for Communications


  1. Helen

    I know that you are allowed to earn money while being retired and receiving social security. Does your retirement from your job count as income towards what you are allowed?

    • Vonda V.

      Thank you for the question, Helen. If you’re asking about whether or not your pension counts as income towards the annual earnings limits, the answer is no, it does not. Pension payments, annuities, and the interest or dividends from your savings and investments are not earnings for Social Security purposes. Only earned income, your wages or net income from self-employment, is covered by Social Security. We hope this helps.

      Note: A non-covered pension, a pension based on work that is not covered by Social Security (for example, Federal civil service and some State or local government agencies such as police officers and some teachers), may cause the amount of your Social Security benefit to be reduced. Your benefit can be reduced based on one of two provisions: The Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision. See our Information for Government Employees web page for details.

  2. Beverly R.

    My husband is applying for his SS benefit to start in June 2020. He is self employed. We know the limits on earnings for a monthly basis. How do I show monthly earnings ? and at the end of the year when we file our taxes and he reports earnings how do we differentiate the earnings from Jan to June before collecting benefits vs June to Dec when we start receiving benefits ? He still wants to work on a limited basis. I am aware that starting 2021 it will be a limited annual amount

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Beverly, thank you for your question. It really depends on your husband’s age. If he attains full retirement age in 2020, the limit on his earnings is $48,600 but we only count earnings before the month he attains full retirement age. Beginning with the month he reaches full retirement age, his earnings no longer reduce his benefits, no matter how much he earns.

      If he is under full retirement age for the entire year, then we deduct $1 from benefit payments for every $2 earned above the annual limit. For 2020, that limit is $18,240. There is a special earnings limit rule for those that retire mid-year and have already earned more than the yearly earnings limit.

      The Getting Benefits While Working web page provides more details.

      Hope this helps!

  3. Roy E.

    I just finished today my application for benefits and submitted it online. Since I don’t have printed at home, I was not able to print a copy of the summary that needed to be filed. How do I get a copy? Thanks for your help.

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Roy, thank you for using our blog. Check out our Frequently Asked Questions web page on how you can check the status of your application. Hopefully that will help.

  4. Darrel B.

    A applied for retirement benefits on 12/18/19 and as of yet haven’t received confirmation. My wife applied 2 weeks ago and already received her confirmation letter. What is going on? Please reply via e-mail if possible. Thanks

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Darrel, thank you for using our blog to ask your question. You can log in to or create a my Social Security account to check the status of your application online.

      If you are unable to check your status online, you can
      •Call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; or
      •Contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information.

  5. Margaritaditte

    Nice blog. I’ve found this interesting about medical topics

  6. Gary D.

    My wife started receiving a retirement benefits last year with no withholding tax. Appreciate if you can guide us how to change the status to have the benefits withheld with tax. We don’t want to face a financial burden with IRS during tax season because of this.Thank you!

  7. Peggy Z.

    what is the approximate time to expect receiving benefit payments after completion of my application.

  8. Jim

    My wife and I turn 62 this year (2020). She has transitioned from full-time nurse early in our marriage to stay-at-home mom for many years to now part-time employee. For many years of my career, I earned the max taxable by SS. Her SS income at full retirement is approx $1,000/month, while mine is something like $3,000/month. This means her spousal income (50% of mine) would be 50% higher than her own benefit, or about $1,500/month. Here’s my question. Can my wife apply to receive her own retirement benefit from her own earnings history when she turns 62 while I continue working to full retirement, and then can she switch without issue or penalty to higher spousal income tied to mine when I retire five years later?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Jim. Thanks for your questions. For your wife to qualify for spouse’s benefits, you must be receiving retirement or disability benefits. Also, when she qualifies for Social Security benefits on her own record, we pay that amount first. But if she also qualifies for a higher amount as a spouse, she’ll get a combination of benefits that equals that higher amount. Keep in mind if a person begins to receive benefits at age 62 or prior to their full retirement age, their benefits are reduced. The reduction factors are permanently applied to all of the benefits the person may qualify. Visit our Retirement Planner: Benefits For You As A Spouse for more information. We hope this helps.

  9. janine

    if your plan is to retire at 66, when is the best time to apply for your full retirement benefits? I’ll be 66 in may of this year and don’t want to be penalized for applying too early. Thank You

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Janine. Social Security retirement applications can be filed up to 4 months in advance. When you are ready to file, visit here. We hope this helps.

  10. Tina

    My husband began receiving Social Security in August 2019. He applied for and was recently approved for Social Security Disability. He was 64 when he started receiving social security. His first SSD check will be paid in February. When he reaches full retirement age (66 and 2 months-born in 1955) Will his benefit change? Will he receive the full retirement amount, the disability amount, or the reduced amount he was receiving prior to the disability approval.

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Tina. Thanks for your question. For your husband’s security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community work with our offices with specific questions. He can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. Generally, he will have a shorter wait if he calls later in the day. He can also contact his local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

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